CHANGES TO PRIVATE HIRE AND HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS IN RESPECT OF THE CERTIFICATE OF FITNESS
To receive a report from Greg Nelson, Trading Standards & Licensing Lead.
The Panel to note the report and agree the suggested changes.
Greg Nelson, Trading Standards and Licensing Lead introduced the report and highlighted the following key points:
Ø The medical fitness to drive and operate a RBWM licenced private hire vehicle (PHV) or Hackney Carriage (HC) was an essential and long standing requirement.
Ø The means of establishing an applicant’s medical fitness is set out in the RBWM Private Hire Driver Policy & Conditions and the HC Driver Policy & Conditions (“the Policies”) respectively. Both of the Policies stated that licence applicants must provide a Certificate of Fitness signed and stamped by the applicant’s General Practitioner (GP).
Ø The requirement applied both to new licence applicants and to existing drivers renewing their licence.
Ø It had been brought to the attention of the Trading Standards and Licensing Lead by a number of applicants that some GPs were no longer willing to sign and stamp a Certificate of Fitness due to workloads and other pressures.
Ø That meant that an applicant in that situation could not comply with the requirements of the Policies and therefore, strictly speaking, should not be able to obtain a RBWM licence even if they could obtain a Certificate of Fitness from another appropriate medical doctor.
Ø A simple means of addressing the problem would be to change the respective PHC and HC Policy and Conditions to allow an applicant to have their Certificate of Fitness signed and stamped either by their GP or by another appropriate doctor.
Ø That would provide some flexibility for the applicants and remove potential delays in the licensing process, whilst ensuring that the essential requirement that their medical fitness to hold a licence is properly established and maintained.
Ø The person signing off the Certificate of Fitness would need to be a medical practitioner and would need access to a drivers medical history where appropriate.
Councillor Cannon stated he had some concerns over the definition of appropriate medical practitioner and asked if the new system would be made up of a panel of doctors; the whole point of drivers using their GP is that they know their patients. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead responded that he had spent some time looking at the wording of the Policy and stated it needed to be an appropriate medical doctor and that if there were any concerns regarding a particular applicant, the medical records would be requested; flexibility would be given to the Licensing Officer. Councillor Clark commented it must be a doctor listed with the GMC or other official body. The Policy should state that the medical practitioner should be a UK qualified practicing doctor. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead confirmed he was happy to amend the wording to state a driver should obtain a Certificate of Fitness from a UK registered practising doctor.
Councillor Baldwin asked for any evidence of the scale of the problem and the need for the change of policy. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead responded that there had only been a small number of drivers that had experienced issues getting their Certificate of Fitness signed off by their GPs but, the number was increasing year on year, due to increasing workloads of doctors, GPs were less inclined to sign Certificates and were only wanting to deal with patients and their ailments so the changes to the Policy prevented problems and stresses for drivers later on. David Scott, Head of Communities added that even though it was currently a small problem, it was increasing and some drivers were being put in a difficult position.
The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead said he had looked at neighbouring authorities and there was a slight difference in wording to their Policies; some said Certificates of Fitness needed to be signed by the applicants GP and others said medical practitioner. Councillor Cannon commented he had been approached by two drivers who had had some serious issues getting their Certificates signed off so he was happy with the new amendments to the Policy. Councillor Bhangra said he knew drivers had to pay for the service in other areas. Councillor Brar queried whether the Council could ask GPs to run a service for drivers. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead responded the changes to the Policy left it up to the drivers to find an appropriate service. Councillor Clark added the service existed and as long as the doctor was registered, they would be able to sign a Certificate of Fitness.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Licensing Panel noted the report and:
i. Agreed to change the Private Hire Driver Policy & Conditions and the Hackney Carriage Driver Policy & Conditions respectively to allow a Certificate of Fitness to be signed either by the applicant’s GP or by another UK registered appropriate medical practitioner.